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Salim Faraji

CGU PhD Candidate

History of Christianity

The Tune Collection contains research materials specializing in the languages, literature, archaeology and cultures of the Nile Valley and Northeast Africa from the Hellenistic period through the early medieval period of Nubian and Coptic Christianity.

With so many specialized materials concentrated in one place, the Tune Collection constitutes a rare and valuable resource for the southern California region and particularly for Claremont students. Salim Faraji has

taken full advantage of his proximity to the Collection and its holdings in the area of Nubiology and specifically Nubian Christianity. A Ph.D. candidate in the History of Christianity program at Claremont Graduate University, Faraji met Dr. Tune in 1996 at the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity and discovered a mutual interest in Egyptian history and religions. With Tune’s encouragement, Faraji traveled to Egypt to pursue his interests in Nubian Christianity and used the Tune Collection materials to shape and specialize his doctoral coursework.

The quality of the holdings of the Tune Collection has allowed Faraji to develop a unique dissertation focus on the emergence of Christianity in Nubian history. The dissertation title, “The Roots of Nubian Christianity: A Transitional Culture in Late Antique Africa--The Silko Inscription and the Temple of Kalabsha as Context,” was inspired by the Institute for Antiquity’s research Project, “The Roots of Egyptian Christianity,” directed by Dr. Birger Pearson. Faraji’s research undertakes the analysis and interpretation of the religious conversion and cultural transformation of late antique Nubia to Christianity during the fourth to the sixth centuries of the Common Era.

Using the array of materials available in the Tune Collection, Faraji is able to contextualize primary documents and material evidence in terms of the larger heuristic question of conversion and the transformative processes by which an indigenous African culture, ancient Nubia, appropriated and absorbed the religious forms and cultural practices of Christianity and the broader Byzantine milieu. Faraji contends that religious transformation in the context of cultural encounter cannot be explained according to conventional interpretations of religious conversion. Utilizing contemporary African and African diaspora religions as a methodological parallel for interpreting Nubian Christianity, Faraji suggests that religious conversion be viewed as a “conversation” between cultures. With a focus on the emergence of Christianity in the post-Meroitic and Ballana cultural phase of Nubian history, Faraji’s research places hermeneutical priority on the texts produced by the various Nubian cultures themselves. The dissertation examines Coptic and Greek papyri discovered in 1976 at the ancient site of Qasr Ibrim near the second cataract in southern Egypt and the Greek inscription of the Nubian Pharaoh Silko, dated from the middle 5th century C. E., and preserved at the temple of Kalabsha in Egyptian Nubia. The Silko inscription represents the genre of triumphant inscription, a genre that articulates the traditions of sovereign religion and kingship ideology that were so fundamentally important in classical Nile Valley history. The inscription’s proclamation “Theos gave me the victory” helps shape Faraji’s thesis that the Pharaoh Silko had accepted the Christian creed and at the very least declared Christianity as the new religious ideology of the Nubian court.

The Tune Collection makes available to Faraji’s research the invaluable primary source materials such as epigraphic, archaeological, and textual sources that provide insight into the conversion process of ancient Nubia from the perspective of the various cultures that inhabited the Nubian Nile Valley.